Back in April 2007, a Virginia house owned by former NFL player Michael Vick was raided during a drug investigation and it led to the discovery of dozens of emaciated and injured dogs.
All evidence pointed to a dog fighting ring and in July of the same year, the football player and several others were charged with operating an illegal interstate dog fighting business called “Bad Newz Kennels.”
Vick served 23-months in prison, 3 years of probation and lost tens of millions of dollars.
Some organizations like PETA and The Humane Society of the U.S. along with a few members of the public argued that Vick’s traumatized dogs were beyond rehabilitation and they should be put down to end their “suffering once and for all.”
However, the athlete was ordered by a judge to pay over $900,000 for the treatment and care of the dogs, a decision which kept 47 out of 51 dogs alive.
10 years after the bust, Jim Gorant, a Sports Illustrated writer took it upon himself to follow up on the lives of the canines rescued from former the Philadelphia Eagles’ property.
These are innocent dogs that were forced into extreme conditions, but they managed to overcome it all. Gorant compiled their stories in his new book Found Dogs and here are some of them:
Jhumpa was living in a government shelter after her rescue, but was later adopted by Kathleen Pierce. She worked as a therapy dog for a short while and visited schools to raise awareness about animal welfare before retiring. She now spends her days playing, sneaking treats and napping.
“She’s become just a dog to me, which is what I always dreamed of. But seeing the gray in her muzzle, it has reminded me of how incredible the journey has been and how important her voice has been,” Pierce said.
“He’s the same dog he was when we got him,” said Ernie’s foster parent, Sasha Best. “Sweet and sensitive, a big wonderful goofball.”
Ernie got along with Best’s family which at one point included two cats and another pit bull mix. He’s a lot older now but he still loves to hike on weekends and never turns down a belly rub.
3. Jonny Justice
Since his rescue, the black and white pitbull has experienced maladies which required him to undergo multiple surgeries, but Jonny’s survival spirit cannot be broken.
He won the title for Gund’s Most Beautiful Dog in 2012 and in 2014, he won ASPCA’s Dog of the Year. Since 2015, sweet Jonny has been a volunteer at the San Francisco library’s children’s section.
It took a while for Hector to find a forever home, but unfortunately after 7 years of living with Roo and Clara Yori, he was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in 2014 but it wasn’t without putting a smile on the faces of everyone that he crossed paths with including the sick children at some of California’s hospitals.
The Yoris still use Hector’s “I WIN” picture to help raise funds for shelters and rescue organizations.
5. Little Red
Little Red spent most of her years of freedom under the care of Best Friends Animal Society. She was later adopted by one of the volunteers and donors, Susan Weidel. The rescued bait dog adjusted well in her new home and instantly became friends with Weidel’s five other dogs.
Sadly, the 14 year old canine died in her sleep earlier this year.
Thankfully Stella is alive and well! She was adopted by Amanda Mouisset, a behaviorist at the SPCA of Monterey. She’s still hesitant in new situations, but when she gets comfortable, she’s wonderful.
“She’s a pistol,” Mouisset said. “Lots of personality.” She’s also a big fan of long hikes and naps.
Red was also a resident of SPCA of Monterey until he too got adopted by Mouisset. He apparently adjusted fast to freedom and was always “stoic and mature.”
In a sad turn of events, Red was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and despite rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer recurred and he passed away shortly after surrounded by loved ones.